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Is it a good idea to get sheep or goats?


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I currently live with my border collie and have been considering the possibility of raising livestock.
We live on 9 acres that we own, and live in the UK. We use part of it for training and agility, and what we aren't using is let out for grazing to a farmer nearby.

I was thinking of perhaps purchasing a small number of sheep or goats to get started.
Being new to livestock owning, I was wondering what people thought of this idea.
I have heard goats are much easier to care for than sheep as they need less maintance in terms of coat, such as dipping.

We currently have ducks, but they are different than sheep and goats in terms of management.

Also, I was wondering what you thought of training my border collie to herd?

I have heard goats are difficult to herd because they have less flocking instinct and can be more stubborn.
Though are there some that are easier to herd with than others?

And that certain sheep are easier to use for herding with a beginner dog than others.

She comes from a farm, and both her parents worked livestock.
She has instinct, though I am not sure how much talent as she has not been trained to herd.
We don't have anyone nearby who can help teach us however. We have someone we can visit irregularly who could perhaps give us some pointers, but no one we can visit weekly.

Do you think this is a good idea?
If so, what do you recommend for a first time owner of livestock?
Or for training a dog to herd?
Any breeds you think would suit best?

Is it possible to find dog broken adults, and would that be a good idea?

Any resources for what is needed to own and care for sheep or goats?
I was thinking of getting a small number of sheep or goats, and perhaps even teach my border collie to herd,
And was wondering what you thought of this idea and if its a good idea, if so what do you recommend in terms of goat vs sheep, or even breed?
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Agree with both Donald and Tea. If your dog is untrained, and you've never worked stock before (or owned stock) - you absolutely need someone you can work with on a regular basis. Otherwise chaos will ensue.


My two cents' worth: I'd rather keep sheep than goats. Why?


  • If you're trying to recoup some of your costs, you'll want to breed them. Sheep and goats have different requirements with respect to supplements (goats need copper at a level toxic to sheep). So you'd want to keep them separately. I have ~11 acres of pasture, separated into a large hayfield (6 acres), a medium-sized field (3 acres), and two one-acre pastures. Four pastures. I can subdivide the hayfield and 3-acre pasture with electronet for rotational grazing, giving me six pastures, but this fall I'll have them in four groups (market wether lambs plus whatever ram(s) aren't being bred at the moment; ewe lambs not to be bred for another year; two breeding groups, because I don't like to breed father to daughter). Four groups in six pastures. Not many options for rotation there. The thought of adding another species to the mix gives me a migraine. So, definitely think either/or - not both.
  • If you don't want your dog to get frustrated, you'll want stock that move off the dogs in an orderly way (as long as the dog is being proper). Goats are more likely to look at the dog and sneer "you and what army?" But maybe you can find breeds that behave better than most I've met...
  • Goats are escape artists. The phrase goes, "any fence that will hold water will hold a goat".
  • Male (billy) goats REEK. That's because they spray their beards with what they view as an alluring mixture of urine and semen.
  • Many species of goat come with horns - more so than sheep, I think. I'd stay away from any species with horns (just my personal preference). One more thing to get caught in fences, or break off and cause bleeding. And they HURT more when you get butted. Sure, you can get kids debudded - but it's an extra vet expense.
  • I've heard that goats are MORE prone to die than sheep (which is saying something!). Where I live they're certainly much more susceptible to barberpole worm (the principal parasite of concern). I've also heard that the kids are more fragile than are lambs.

On the flip side:

  • Sheep need to be sheared each year (unless you have hair sheep - not sure how common those are in the UK). That's an expense, and you're unlikely to recoup it in selling the wool.
  • Goats do have more personality than sheep (there, I've said it!).


If you do go down this path (preferably AFTER finding someone who can mentor your training of your dog, as well as your introduction to livestock!), and you decide on sheep, you should probably consider a breed of sheep that is not one of the so-called "primitive" breeds (that latter category includes Shetlands). Primitive sheep have less of a flocking instinct. Maybe fine to give an extra challenge to an experienced dog, but if you want to train an inexperienced dog, why not use all the help you can get? As far as breeds go - everyone has their favorite. Talk to people around you who have sheep AND dogs, and ask them why they like their breed the best.


And yes, definitely acquire dog-broke sheep for your first sheep (just make sure they're not overdogged!). Again, something that will help you out. My sheep panic when they see a strange dog, but they're fine with my dogs or even friends' well-trained (but strange to them) Border collies. I do know people who regularly sell off their sheep to buy "fresh" ones because their sheep become TOO dog-broke, but I'm also told that sheep sour far more slowly if the dog works them properly.

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